Repair a Toilet

Repair a Toilet

Level: Beginner

Is your toilet not functioning properly? Maybe it flushes poorly, runs continuously or leaks water? Fortunately, most problems are fixable. Best of all, you can repair them yourself.

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  • Easy Repairs for Quick Fixes

    Jiggling the handle might work for a while, but if your toilet is always running or doesn't flush adequately, you need to perform these simple fixes that usually can tame a noisy, inefficient toilet.

    • Step 1: Check the Chain
      man repair a toilet

      The chain attached to the rubber flapper often becomes loose, causing incomplete flushing and/or continuous running. To fix it, remove links from the chain using needle-nosed pliers until it's tight.

    • Step 2: Check Water Level

      Improper water levels can also cause problems with your toilet. This can be fixed by adjusting the ball cock, which is located next to the overflow pipe; the open tube to the right of the handle. Adjust the ball cock so the water comes to1/2" below the overflow pipe. If you think you may need to replace the ball cock, go to Replace the Ball Cock.

    • Step 3: Repair Parts

      You can repair the ball cock by bending the float arm up or down to adjust the water level for the plunger-valve ball cock. Bending the arm up will raise the water level, bending it down lowers it.

      If you have a float cup ball cock, you need to pinch the spring clip that is on the float cup. This enables you to move the float cup up and down by the pull rod.

      Helpful Tip

      If your toilet is leaking, check to see if the toilet has shifted. Shifting can crack the wax seal and allow water to seep out from underneath. To fix this problem, sit on the toilet and twist it back into position. If this doesn't stop leakage, you may need to replace the wax ring.

    Replace the Ball Cock

    If the chain or water level is fine but your toilet is still giving you problems, you may need to replace the ball cock. Replacing an old ball cock with a float cup will not only fix your toilet, it will make it more water efficient as well. The float cup variety is made of plastic, so you don't have to replace it as often. A brass plunger-valve ball cock can warp and rust while the plastic of the float cup stays intact.

    • Step 1: Empty Tank

      Shut off the water by turning the angle stop — the shut-off valve at the bottom of the toilet. Flush the toilet to empty the water in the tank. Soak up any remaining water with a mop or sponge.

    • Step 2: Undo Supply Tube and Remove Ball Cock

      Using a wrench, disconnect the supply tube from the tank. The supply tube is the tube that runs from the angle stop to the tank. Take off the mounting nut and remove the ball cock.

    • Step 3: Install New Ball Cock

      Place the new ball cock through the hole in the tank. Adjust it so that the lid fits on the toilet. Bend the refill tube so the tip fits into the overflow tube on the flush valve.

    • Step 4: Reattach Supply Tube

      Attach the coupling nut on the underside of the tank with the wrench. If you don't have any more repairs to make, you can reattach the supply tube to the tank.

    • Step 5: Open Angle Stop

      Turn the water back on at the shut-off valve.

    • Step 6: Correct Water Level

      Adjust the water so that it is 1/4" below the top of the overflow tube. Adjust the ball cock by pinching the spring clip. This moves the float cup up and down. Move the float cup up to raise the water level and move the cup down to lower the water.

    Replace Flush Valve

    A continuously running toilet can also be the result of a faulty flush valve. Because the valve is made of rubber, it can decompose or warp allowing water to escape from the tank into the bowl. Here's how to fix the problem.

    • Step 1: Empty Tank
      repair kit

      Shut off the water by turning the angle stop, the shut-off valve at the bottom of the toilet. Flush the toilet to get rid of the water in the tank. Soak up any remaining water with a mop or sponge.

    • Step 2: Remove Supply Tube

      Disconnect the supply tube from the tank using a wrench. This is the tube that runs from the tank to the angle stop.

    • Step 3: Remove Tank

      Unbolt the tank from the bowl. It might be stuck on tightly, so grab the bolt with the wrench and use a screwdriver to unscrew the bolt. Lift the tank off the bowl and turn it over.

    • Step 4: Take Out Old Flush Valve

      Take the spud washer off the pipe that sticks out of the bottom of the tank. Use a spud wrench or channel-type pliers and unscrew the spud nut. Remove the flush valve.

    • Step 5: Install New Flush Valve

      Put the cone washer over the tailpiece so the beveled edge of the washer faces up toward the pipe. Turn the tank right side up. Put the flush valve into the hole in the tank so the little tailpiece sticks out the bottom. Position the valve so the overflow pipe is next to the ball cock.

    • Step 6: Install Spud Nut

      Turn the tank over and use the spud wrench or channel-type pliers to tighten the spud nut onto the tailpiece. Put the spud washer over the spud nut. Turn the tank right side up.

    • Step 7: Reattach Tank
      screw driver

      Place the tank onto the bowl making sure that the spud washer goes through the hole in the bowl. Bolt the tank to the bowl using the wrench and a screwdriver.

      Be careful. Don't over-tighten the bolts, or it can break the porcelain. The bolts should be snug, but not too tight.

    • Step 8: Put In Flapper and Attach Supply Tube

      Attach the flapper to the overflow pipe inside the bowl. Then attach the lever chain from the flapper to the handle lever making sure the chain is taut. If there are no more repairs, reattach the supply tube to the tank and turn the water on.

    Replace the Toilet

    If none of the previous fixes worked, or your toilet is out of date and not very water-efficient, it may be time to start over by installing a new one. Here's how:

    • Step 1: Empty Toilet

      Shut off the water to the toilet. If you don't have an angle stop shut-off valve by your toilet, you need to shut off the water at your home's main shut-off valve. Flush the toilet several times to remove water from the bowl and tank. Then soak up any remaining water with a mop or sponge.

    • Step 2: Take Off Supply Tube

      Disconnect the water supply tube. This is the tube that attaches from the shut-off valve to the toilet tank. Unscrew from the tank.

    • Step 3: Remove the Tank

      If you have a one-piece toilet, proceed to Step 4. If your toilet is two pieces, you'll have to remove the tank first. Reach inside the tank and unscrew the bolts that attach to the toilet. Use an 8" wrench to grasp the washer under the tank and use the screwdriver to turn the bolt. You should now be able to remove the tank by lifting it.

    • Step 4: Detach Bowl from Floor

      Be prepared to get some water on your floor. Take off the caps that are over the bolts in the floor. Unscrew the nuts using the 8" wrench. You may need a hacksaw to get these off if they are corroded.

      Tilt the bowl forward and rock it from side-to-side. Lift the bowl from the floor. There is less spillage if the bowl is tilted forward. Put a rag into the pipe leading from the floor to keep the smell of sewer gases from coming into the bathroom.

      Pry off the old wax seal that is around the pipe on the floor with a putty knife. Remove the old bolts from the floor, even if you didn't cut them with the hacksaw. You'll replace them with the bolts that come with the new toilet.

      Helpful Tip

      To reduce spillage, put a pan next to the toilet. When you remove the bowl, dump the excess water into it.

    • Step 5: Attach Wax Seal

      Turn the new bowl over and put on the new wax or rubber seal around the hole. Place a new wax ring over the drain horn. If the ring has a rubber or plastic sleeve, the sleeve should face away from toilet. Apply a bead of plumber's putty to bottom edge of toilet base.

    • Step 6: Install New Bowl

      Turn the bowl back over and position it so the bolts fit through the holes. Twist the bowl a bit to make sure it is in the right place. Press the bowl down to the floor to compress the seal — the best method is to sit on the toilet and rock back and forth. Tighten the nuts on the bolts while you're seated.

      Don't over-tighten the bolts or you can crack the porcelain. Make sure the toilet is level. Use little planks of wood to shore up the toilet to make it level. Over the next few days, the toilet will settle some, so occasionally tighten the nuts so they are snug.

      Helpful Tip

      Dump some water into the bowl to check for any leaks out of the bottom. If there's water leakage, try to compress the wax seal more. If that doesn't work, you need to start over with a new wax seal.

    • Step 7: Replace Tank Parts Inside and Reattach Tank

      Install the handle, flush valve and float cup ball cock. Once these are in place, attach the tank to the bowl. If you have a one-piece tank, proceed to Step 8.

      For all other models, turn the tank over and attach the spud washer over the tailpiece of pipe. Turn the tank back over and position it so the spud washer fits into the hole on the seat. Attach the tank to the toilet using the washers and bolts provided. Make sure they are tight by holding onto the washer with the wrench and turning the bolt with a screwdriver. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts or you risk cracking the base. Attach the chain on the rubber stopper to the handle lever and make sure it is somewhat taut.

    • Step 8: Attach Supply Tube and Turn on Water

      Reconnect the supply tube to the new tank. Put the compression nut onto the supply tube, followed by the compression ring. Make sure the threads of the compression nut face down toward the valve. Put joint compound onto the compression ring and place the tube into the supply valve. Slide the ring and nut onto the threads.

      Use a wrench to tighten the nut. Connect the tube to the tank using a compression nut. Open the shut-off valve and let the tank fill with water. Test the toilet by flushing a few times. Put on the toilet seat cover and clean up.

      That's it! No more jiggling the handle of a troublesome toilet.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.


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